Parks’s Pulse: On all-access, running games, and rotating quarterbacks

Memorable all-access moments provided by Roughnecks head coach Wade Philips.
Memorable all-access moments provided by Roughnecks head coach Wade Philips.

Each week during the season, Parks’s Pulse will present a smattering of thoughts on the previous weekend’s games.

Ranking the games

  1. Renegades 22, Vipers 20: The XFL couldn’t have asked for a much better game to start off the 3.0 era; just enough offense and a game that came down to the wire.
  2. Defenders 22, Sea Dragons 18: A little choppy thanks to some confusion at times from the officiating crew. Another close game that was decided in the final minute. The offensive lines kept the QBs more upright than in some other games.
  3. Battlehawks 18, Brahmas 15: This one had the best atmosphere and the best finish of the week; too bad the rest of the game was a dog with neither offense being able to get out of its own way for much of it.
  4. Roughnecks 33, Guardians 12: As many predicted, the Guardians seemed outclassed compared to the Roughnecks and the rest of the league. The game felt like it was over in the 2nd quarter.

The Guardians were who we thought they were

The only team that wasn’t in the game at the end was the Orlando Guardians. They turned the ball over four times and surrendered seven sacks. This was not a surprise: I had Orlando’s roster ranked as the eighth out of eight teams. Many others saw the Guardians similarly. It was a struggle all game long for Terrell Buckley’s crew. The good news? Their running game was one of the few that showed signs of life in the first week (4.9 yards per carry) and the defense had two interceptions of their own.

All-Access Moment of the Week, Part One

A fumbled handoff between Renegades QB Drew Plitt and RB Keith Ford gave Vegas the ball in Arlington territory midway through the second quarter with Vegas already up 6-3. As Plitt and Ford came off the field, Renegades RB Coach Reggie Davis met them on the sideline and asked what happened. When Ford responded, “I don’t know,” Davis told him, “We can’t say ‘I don’t know’ because then we can’t fix it. So I need to know what the problem was.” A great response to “I don’t know” that coaches in any sport can use.

You can Becht on it

If you follow Anthony Becht on social media, you know the man is infinitely positive. That positivity may have helped his Battlehawks in their epic comeback win against the Brahmas. Becht never appeared to get down, never got negative on the sidelines. He was constantly encouraging his players, even as it seemed like the Brahmas had put the game away. In the end, St. Louis completed the comeback – and won by three after being favored by 2.5, covering the spread for the bettors out there.

If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback

So goes the famous phrase referring to teams that rotate two (or more) quarterbacks into a game. Somewhat surprisingly, half the league utilized more than one quarterback during games this weekend, all by choice. In Houston, the Roughnecks started veteran Brandon Silvers but subbed in Cole McDonald on goal-line and extra point plays. It didn’t seem to work: Houston was 0-4 on conversion plays. McDonald did score on a five-yard rush late in the game.

Houston’s counterpart, Orlando, started Paxton Lynch after their depth chart showed the possibility that any of their three QBs would start. Deondre Francois was deactivated as the third quarterback, leaving Quinten Dormady as the backup. ESPN’s announcers noted that Orlando had planned to play both QBs, and were likely to activate Francois next week to give him time as well. Neither Lynch nor Dormady distinguished themselves, leaving it likely Lynch starts again next week.

The Seattle Sea Dragons also planned to give their backup some action. Steven Montez ended up playing just one series early in the second quarter for Seattle on a drive that ended with a punt. Perhaps because the game was still in the balance, Seattle opted to go with Ben DiNucci the rest of the way. On the other sideline, DC started Jordan Ta’amu but had a package of plays, as expected, for the explosive D’Eriq King. King completed just one pass for seven yards and averaged 1.8 yards on eight rush attempts. He did have a fourth quarter TD run. Teams are still trying to find the best 11 to play on the offensive side of the ball, so expect more shuffling in and out at the QB position until teams find their man.

All-Access Moment of the Week, Part Two

With Houston up 33-12 and 1:18 left on the game clock, Orlando took over possession on their own 23-yard line. “I’d run the ball if I was them, get the f$ck out of here,” Roughnecks Head Coach Wade Phillips, the curse going unbleeped on the broadcast, told DL Coach Bill Johnson. “Why would they call a time out though?” asked Johnson, referring to Orlando stopping the clock on Houston’s previous offensive drive. “Well, he’s stupid. He ain’t a real coach, that’s why,” Phillips responded. After a long pause, almost considering whether or not they should draw attention to it, the announcers did react to the shot across the bow from Phillips to Guardians Head Coach Terrell Buckley, calling it “bulletin board material.” The fallout from this, if any, remains to be seen. At the least, Phillips may owe Buckley a phone call.

Run games grounded

Another byproduct of the struggling offensive lines was the inability to get a consistent ground game going. Only one team ran for over 100 yards – the San Antonio Brahmas – and even then, they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. For O-Lines that can’t protect the quarterback, they’ve got to at least be able to open holes in the run game. If they can’t do that either, then it’s going to be a long season from an offensive perspective.

Recent NFL defenders star

Several current XFL players ended the NFL season on team practice squads. Not surprisingly, a few of them made an impact in their opening games. Nate Meadors picked off a pass for the Battlehawks in the first quarter against the Brahmas. Kobe Smith registered half a sack for the Brahmas. And in Houston, LB Tim Ward had two sacks and three tackles for loss, while teammate Trent Harris notched four sacks himself. If they can keep up this pace, they’re likely to find themselves back in the NFL at the conclusion of the XFL season.

NFL players endorse XFL

The XFL got some free advertisement on social media from current NFL players. Among those tweeting positive thoughts about the XFL were Tyreek Hill and AJ Brown, as well as former XFL player and current CFL’er James Butler, and former NFL star Chad Johnson.